Today we sit down with Author Giselle Roeder. She is going to tell us about her background, inspiration and work.
Please enjoy this latest edition of 20 Questions:
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Actually I never thought of becoming a writer – I just was one. Even in grammar school I wrote wonderful essays and didn’t think anything of it. I just enjoyed it. As a teenager I started to write stories connected to the results of my kayak sports team races and felt a sense of pride to see my name on the ‘by’-line. After I finished my education I wrote a regular column about alternative the importance of exercise, health, beauty and nutrition. That was in the seventies –at that time I was a bit controversial but caused a lot of curiosity. I was invited to write for several magazines since I also had made a name as a speaker at Health Conventions in the USA, UK as well as in Canada. This in turn lead to invitations to speak in England as well as Australia. Then ‘alive’ – one of the magazines I wrote for, asked me to write three books for their “Natural Health Guides” series. I wrote “Healing with Water” and “Sauna – The Hottest Way To Good Health”. The contract for the third book was cancelled since the company was sold out of the country.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Those Health Guide books only took about three to four months. They only have sixty pages and are printed on glossy paper with wonderful photos and always a number of healthy recipes. It took me that long because I was just learning to use a computer. Once I had the first book almost finished when I was called away from it by the phone. I had not saved my work and when I wanted to continue – everything was GONE! I knew it had been good and I tried to remember but my re-write I knew it was not as good. At least not in my mind. However, the rights for that book, “Healing with Water”, have been bought by India, Poland and Italy for translation. Lifestyle and healthy living are very timely topics.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I work best when under pressure, having deadlines. If I have too much time to do something I tend to procrastinate. But when the ‘muse’ strikes me, beware! Don’t talk to me; leave me alone and the words and ideas just flow through my fingers onto the computer screen. I don’t count the hours, I don’t care if it is day or night – I don’t even get hungry or thirsty. The only thing to stop me is a bathroom break. But now, I also click “SAVE!
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Let me think. It probably is what other people call procrastination. I call it I am “pregnant” with developing thoughts for my book. Because when I am “pregnant” with a book I never stop thinking about it. I even dream about it. When I wake up I have to write down what my subconscious mind told me.
Q5) How are your books published?
Those first two health books were published by ‘alive’ magazine. My main work, my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” An Amazing Story of Survival – WWII, 1945, the Russian Invasion of Germany with their wholesale rape, murder and other atrocities was published by Friesen Press. Since I had to pay for it, it probably counts for ‘indie’. I did not even try the traditional route because I wanted to see my book ‘out there’ before I die. Once the book was out and incredible reviews came in, several other writers suggested “with THAT topic you would have been able to get a traditional publisher.” But as I said, I was anxious to just get it out there. And I had heard that the traditional route could take five years. I figured I don’t have so much time. Several people have suggested it would be movie material. One reviewer said “It reads like a Spielberg movie.”
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Since I don’t write fiction it’s easy to tell you that everything I write is based on truth. No, not based on truth, it is truth based on my life. The memoir turned out so interesting that my readers are screaming for a sequel. Word Press, who handles my website, told me by the year end of 2015 that I have readers in ninety countries and the numbers are close to 8.000. Since I am ‘pregnant’ with my sequel I wrote a short story book just to get something out before I get the sequel done. All those stories are about people I have met. All of the stories carry a message and they definitely incite discussions. The book is called “Forget Me Not” – A Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts and Memories and it makes a wonderful gift. No matter who gives it as a gift it is a reminder for the receiver: “Forget Me Not.” It has a wonderful cover with Forget-Me-Not flowers all over it. When I first held it in my hand I said “If this would be a teddy bear I’d take it to bed with me.” It was published with Create Space on Amazon. They did a wonderful job.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first printed books were those earlier mentioned health books. One was printed in 2000, the other in 2001. Those Health Guides consist of 32 books and are sold on five continents. My memoir “We Don About That” was written after a presentation I gave of the topic “The Russians Are Coming” and the audience yelled for a book. Since I didn’t have one they said “Then write one” and I did. That was five years ago.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Thinking! Reading. More thinking. Gardening and more thinking. I also like to sew because it leaves my mind free to roam. Lately someone said to me “Thinking is bad for you, it bruises the brain” and I wrote a blog about it. I try to write a regular blog for my website, there are more than 130 now. They get shared onto my Author Facebook, my personal Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+ and others.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
I experienced an eviction when I was eleven years old and we, guns pointed at us, had ten minutes to “get out” of our house. I grabbed the photographs I had picked up from the manure pile. The Russians had emptied the big silver bowl holding all our family pictures. If I would be evicted again and could only keep ONE book from my extensive collection, I would grab Jane Austen’s “Collected works”.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
They keep telling me “Keep writing – you know how to tell a compelling story.” They are all very supportive – especially when I get into that moody faze being totally absorbed within myself. They know when to leave me alone.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I could write! After all, I write in my second language. And when one UK writer who writes bestsellers mentioned how wonderful my language skills were I was over the moon.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
When I’m on a roll and someone makes me stop. It takes me hours to get back into the same mind set or mood. That is very frustrating to me. .
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Only four so far. My best is definitely the memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”. Every single reader who writes me an e-mail or places a review says “I couldn’t put it down.” Readers also write and tell me their or their parent’s stories. I could make another book out of those but I would not abuse their trust. Many told me that because of my book they have started to write their own memoir and are now interested in asking their aging parents or grandparents about their life. Interestingly, many of them tell them “I rather don’t talk about that”. Just like my relatives told me when I started to ask questions. That is how I got my title.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Do become a better writer? Start writing – and never stop. Keep writing. And when you read other writer’s books, be aware of their language. Does the author paint pictures for you with their words? Do you feel in the middle of a setting? Do you feel you know the characters? Do you identify with one of them? If you don’t – put the book aside and read another one. Read what you wrote to your family or sympathetic friends. Watch for their reactions. Invite critique. Read your stories aloud to yourself. Tape yourself and listen to those tapes. You’ll learn more about yourself than you think and you’ll feel or know where you should make changes.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I get a lot of feedback. Most want to know more of my life and almost all of them tell me their family stories as I mentioned before. One person said “Did I miss school when this topic was covered? I learned more WWII history from reading this book than I ever knew before.” Another said “Reads like a Spielberg movie.” One history writer said “The last piece of the puzzle of WWII. It should be placed next to Anne Frank’s Diaries”. Another one thinks it should be compulsory reading in schools. Several think it should be made into a movie. The people who take the time to write a review or write to me are all very complimentary, they are ordinary people, professors and journalists. I am humbled by what they say and I hope someday my book will be “discovered” by someone like Oprah!
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I love to read to an audience. I have noticed that people who come to readings in a library are especially attentive and have very good questions keeping me alert. I learn more from them. Age doesn’t matter. I noticed many younger people are now very interested in what happened during those war years. It’s totally understandable because so much compares to what is happening in the world right now.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
A good story has to deal with human interest: Feelings, sufferings, unfair treatments, abuse, hopes, achievements, love and if possible a happy ending.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
It changed during the years as I was growing older. But I always knew I was different from my siblings and the other kids in school. And because I was different I was bullied and teased to tears. I could compare myself to “Anne of Green Gables”. I still have stories and poems I have written when I was about twelve to fourteen years old but I had never thought of becoming a writer. I wanted to become a seamstress, a gardener or a teacher, in that order. When I was at university I wanted to become a doctor specializing in sports medicine. When I had my Phys Ed degree I asked my father if he could help me to study medicine. He said “I have three other kids, you have a profession now, so be happy.” The way my life went I ended up becoming a “Health Teacher” – as close to medicine as I could get.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
Naturally on Amazon as print and e-books. They are on the computers of book shops and can be ordered if not in stock.
Amazon print copy: http://www.amazon.com/We-Dont-Talk-about-That/dp/1460232089/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399499112&sr=1-3&keywords=giselle+roeder, https://www.amazon.ca/Forget-Me-Not-Thoughts-Memories/dp/0994997701
Indigo: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/home/search/?keywords=giselle%20roeder, https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/forget-me-not-a-bouquet/9990051420326-item.html?ikwsec=Books&ikwidx=0, https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/sauna-the-hottest-way-to/9781553120346-item.html?ikwsec=Books&ikwidx=3, https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/healing-with-water-kneipp-hydrotherapy/9781553120117-item.html?ikwsec=Books&ikwidx=4
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
The Russians Are Coming
“Erich”, he said, “it’s too late. We are surrounded.”
It was the second of February 1945. My parents were in the kitchen and we children were alone in the living room. The “thunder” was louder than ever. I climbed up on a chair in order to look out of the upper part of the window. I could see the road from the city towards our village. My heart stopped as I saw them: Long rows of tanks, cannons, big vehicles, trucks, red flags – seemingly endless. I got such a shock that I tumbled down and my pleated skirt caught on the back of the chair and I could not free myself. I called out for my mother, and Christel cried out in her loud way. Both my parents came running this time. Dad freed me from the chair and scolded me for being up there in the first place.
“You know you should not be at the window. If you are seen you’ll be shot. They shoot at everything moving!”
I was shaking and stuttered:
“I saw them Dad, I saw them, lots of cannons. Daddy, Daddy, there are so many, they are like a long black snake all the way to the city…“
Father took one look, took charge, told the children to stay put and ordered Mother to get all the others to the living room and Peter to find Granny. He grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the stairs towards the attic.
“You help me fix the big white sheet to the windowsill upstairs.”
“Hurry”, he called out to my mother, “Else, hurry – hurry!”
It was “verboten” to leave the village and it was “verboten” to put white sheets out of your windows. The villagers knew that. If Master Erich was the first to do it then it was safe for everybody to follow suit. He was the only one who had a glimpse of the road from the city at this part of the village. But they also knew that now they were not facing the Volkssturm but the real enemy.
Dad shocked me with a tight hug after he had nailed the sheet to the windowsill. Hugging was rare in our family. When Dad and I came back to the living room they were all there: Aunt Erika with her daughter Ingrid, the old Grandfather with Betty and Helen, Peter, my sisters and my mother, but not Granny.
“Master, I can’t find her, she is not in the house, I have been calling but she doesn’t answer”.
Erich ran out to the yard and yelled:
“Mother…..” At that moment she came out of the garage. I could tell that Father almost choked:
“My God, Mother, the Russians are nearly here, what have you been doing in the garage, you were supposed to be with the children.”
He sounded very upset and angry. She continued walking, gave him a kind of “sideways” cold look and mumbled:
“That’s my business.”
Pale and quiet, they all sat around the table. Mother sat in one corner of the sofa with the baby in one arm and my sister Ingrid in the other. Granny took the other corner. She held Christel who hid her face under Granny’s arm close to her. I was somewhat standing alone but close to my dad who advised everybody to just sit still, be very quiet, not scream, cry or yell and not say anything.
A lot of shooting went on when they entered and moved into the village. We did not know what they would be shooting at but I remembered Father’s words about “everything moving…”
We heard them coming from Granny’s part of the house; they came with heavy booted but halting steps through one room after the other. The way the floors squeaked I knew exactly where they were. All the doors had been left open. The last door between the master bedroom and the living room had been removed a long time ago. It had been replaced with two heavy brocade curtains from either side so that, when left open at night, the heat from the living room could dissipate into the bedroom. Right now this curtain was closed.
The steps stopped by the curtain on the other side. Then, s l o w l y the barrel of a machine gun poked through and the point of a bayonet some way above it slowly pulled the curtain aside. They stared at us as we stared at them.
Born prior to WW II Giselle Roeder spent her early life in the relatively tranquil setting of a rural village in Pomerania. The bloody trauma and aftermath following the Russians occupation of Germany meant that she and her family became displaced persons. She was just one of millions evicted and walked three weeks next to the Russian war machinery “on the road to nowhere. Despite the interruptions to her education Giselle eventually qualified as a Physical Education teacher in East Germany before escaping to the west. There she was obliged to start her life all over again, recommence her training and eventually became a health educator. She experienced ten years Nazi life, lived ten years under Communist rule and after escaping another ten years in the so-called “Golden West.” Following her emigration to Canada Giselle became a successful business woman and international public speaker. She has written two books regarding healthy living previously but in the first part of her autobiography she relates her early life and the episodes about which so many German women were reluctant to talk.
I like to promote all books using links as above. My Website for more information: http://www.giselleroeder.com